Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wearer of Many Masks

I was sitting in a bar in the South End of Boston (it's one of the really trendy neighborhoods right now. Known for fashionable bars and nightlife, a growing gay community, and old world Boston charm) and laughing to myself while my friend went outside to take a phone call because I really am the wearer of many masks.

I realize those words come with heavy connotations, so let me first dispel those misperceptions in what I am saying here. I dont mean it to say I am a chameleon or that I dont have a real personality. As any of my friends or people who work with me can tell you, I am very definite and uncompromising in who I am. Sometimes to the point of conflict (but hey, how many activists do you know who ARENT confrontational and ready for an argument? Answer: none. We live to cause some trouble and shake it up).

I mean it in the sense that I like a lot of extremely and exceptionally different things. That's probably why the first word people often use to describe me is "quirky," and not as an insult or euphemism.

I was laughing and thinking about my masks because I was enjoying a lovely, mild summer evening in one of the WASPiest cities in the country, drinking something sweet called "tokyo rose" and essentially gossiping with a friend who has known me for my entire life. All while a week earlier I was walking through open sewage pipes in sandals in the monsoons in Dharavi and asking people I didnt know, who I had just met in my passages, to tell me about their lives and their businesses.

Whereas, now I was drawing attention to myself in the bright red pants I purchased when I came home because they remind me of one of my absolute best friends, I was doing everything I could to try and blend into the walls. I was covering myself from wrist to ankle in subtly colored Kurtas and leggings and everything that I could find to match the locals -- no jewelry (for me this is weird. I am a layering kind of girl...), plastic shoes, hair tied into a knot ont the back of my head... and still I couldnt do anything to blend in. And here, bright red pants, summer clothes, henna still all over my arms... and I went about unnoticed, as I had hoped.

Exploring has taught me to love many aspects of life.

From the questionnaires I am writing about now for Colombia, to the emails I'm sharing with friends I met along the way... it's been a really great ride.

Even now as I sit here thinking about Colombian history and what I want to ask people about, I am thinking through a creative project I want to do when I get back to create something to give a friend for his birthday.

And you realize, too, that what makes all of this possible -- what keeps me pushing through the more challenging moments of these experiences, fears of being different and going down the uncharted path (away from consulting or worse -- Ibanking-- which Yale seems to push HARD on us), and defining my own version of success, since I am well aware that I will never happily meet that cookie cutter, Yale definition of success (read: money, rank in a traditional, tried and true company, and my own version of a trophy...husband? even writing that makes me gag)-- are the people you met along the way. My parents who notice when I send them emails at 4:30 am and then tell me to GO TO SLEEP and STOP WORKING AND GO HAVE FUN, my best friends, one whose voice soothes all pain and will never judge me and the other who sits on the phone with me and walks me through new technology apps I should know, fights with me through my ideas and projects, and who doesnt put up with my crap, and all of the people who surprise you by caring more than you thought they would.

I am a wearer of many masks because people show me things, and tell me stories, and invite me into their spaces. And for this, I am grateful.

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